Saturday, March 8, 2014

THE CRAWLING EYE 1958

Creepy 1950's British Sci-Fi Horror With Forrest Tucker and a Cute as Bejeezus Janet Munro Battling Huge Alien Crawling Eyeballs and Re-Animated Corpses Atop a Swiss Mountaintop !!



AKA The Trollenberg Terror


"The Nightmare of the Slithering Eye That Unleashed Agonizing Horror on a Screaming World !"




     Based upon a BBC television serial from 1956 titled the THE TROLLENBERG TERROR (and the British title of the movie), THE CRAWLING EYE combines a creepy & shock filled script by Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster (HORROR OF DRACULA & CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN), mixes a bit of Gothic horror along sci-fi and outlandish alien monsters (rendered with some endearingly hokey special effects) into a wonderfully entertaining little "B" film. It might be criticized for tossing too many things into the pot, but they all help keep the story moving along and provide some nice little horror shocks along the way.




    Beginning with a prologue that has three mountain climbers meeting with unexpected fog bank that climaxes with one of them being mysteriously decapitated, we then rush forward to the opening credits (via a train hurtling out of a tunnel) and are introduced to train passenger Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker). On the train Brooks meets up with sisters Anne & Sarah Pilgrim (the above mentioned Janet Munro along with Jennifer Jayne). The Pilgrim Sisters preform as a mind reading act and inexplicably get off the train at Trollenberg along with Brooks as Anne has had some sort of vision and demands they stop.
    Brooks has shown up in Trollenberg to investigate some strange deaths on the mountain. Although it's mentioned that he's from the U.N., Tucker's characters exact role is never fully explained. But hey, every good sci-fi movie needs a proto scientist guy to take charge and boss everybody around. Upon arriving at the local hotel the group is met by a reporter (Lawrence Sanders from 1960's THE TELL-TALE HEART), plus the hotel owner Klein and barman Hans.




    At a nearby mountaintop laboratory Prof. Crevett (Warren Mitchell HELP ! 1965) has been studying a mysterious cloud which moves about the mountain. Crevett has summoned Brooks because previously they both encountered this same weirdness high up in the Andes. In order to get some back story into the plot Brook's is skeptical meaning that the Prof. has to explain everything to him (and us). Meanwhile Dewhurst, a geologist is planning a trip up the mountain to investigate the strange deaths. Accompanied by a guide named Brett (Andrew Faulds THE DEVILS 1969), they stop at a hut for the night the pair encounter a thick fog which Brent disappears into and the next day Dewhurst is discovered decapitated and Brent has vanished.



   It seems that aliens (in the form of wonderful giant crawling eyeballs that were so ingrained in many young viewers minds) have taken up residence in the higher mountaintops as a pretext to (guess what !) conquering the world. Mixed into the plot are the aliens trick of being able to re-animate freshly killed victims and send them off on assigned killing sprees - as in the mysteriously re-appeared Brett and the intended victim being the ESP prone nightgown clad Anne Pilgrim. As mentioned before THE CRAWLING EYE throws many things into the mix, which although maybe seeming to be somewhat random (with some of them left rather unexplained) they all do contribute to the story and help keep the plot moving along as the monsters themselves are not reveled until the climax.


  Thanks to some horror overtones in the Jimmy Sangster script and that combined with some atmospherically moody B&W cinematography by Monty Berman (who also shot the wonderfully grim Burke & Hare vehicle THE FLESH AND THE THE FIENDS from 1960 and 1959's JACK THE RIPPER) add to the creepiness level. The huge eyeball monsters with their failing tentacles are a combination of puppets and stop motion animation and although obviously hampered by the budget look pretty impressive (especially in close-up). The model work is painfully obvious at certain points with the mountaintop paintings falling a bit short (most pointedly in shots with the "cloud" stuck on them) and the set bound production seems a bit cramped (with some stock footage of Switzerland stuck in), but none of these really take away from the movie (as anyone who watches this kind of stuff should know). The monsters themselves are wisely kept hidden until the climax (for which the cloud serves as a handy purpose) and director Quentin Lawrence (who also directed the BBC original - which I would love to see) keeps the plot moving at good clip until the final mountaintop showdown.





   Forrest Tucker is probably familar to most people from F TROOP, but he was a solid dependable actor who had worked in Hollywood since the early 40's. He was most effective in a long run of westerns he did in 1950's and as a friend of John Wayne he appeared in THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949) and CHISUM from 1970. He also was in Hammer's THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957) and in 1958's giant insect opus THE COSMIC MONSTERS (which was from the same English producers as THE CRAWLING EYE). Janet Munro was best known for Disney's DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE (1959) and THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960). Sadly she would battle alcohol problems and die in 1972 at the age of 38.
   The Image DVD is a nice anamorphic transfer from a British print (and can be had for dirt cheap), plus comes complete with a nifty British Board of Censors "X" rating insert ("This is to Certify that The Trollenberg Terror has been Passed for Exhibition when no child under 16 is present. Signed P.W. Harris President" - Thank you very much !).













   

 
 

4 comments:

  1. Man, I always learn so much from your posts.
    But I saw this for the first time last year. It was a much better film than I was led to believe. It's really not very campy at all.

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  2. I'm with you guys - just watched my DVD of it a couple of months ago. Like almost all British sci-fi stuff from the period - you keep half expecting the TARDIS or Steed and Peel to show up!

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  3. One of my favorites as a kid I would watch this whenever it came on!

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